I owe someone a hat tip on this. I haven't been to SD in months.
Potentially a very big deal.
From Science Daily:
An environmentally friendlier method of separating oil from tar sands has been developed by a team of researchers at Penn State. This method, which utilizes ionic liquids to separate the heavy viscous oil from sand, is also capable of cleaning oil spills from beaches and separating oil from drill cuttings, the solid particles that must be removed from drilling fluids in oil and gas wells.
Tar sands, also known as bituminous sands or oil sands, represent approximately two-thirds of the world's estimated oil reserves. Canada is the world's major producer of unconventional petroleum from sands, and the U.S. imports more than one million barrels of oil per day from Canada, about twice as much as from Saudi Arabia. Much of this oil is produced from the Alberta tar sands.
However, the production of petroleum from tar sands causes environmental damage. Part of the damage comes from the storage of contaminated wastewater from the separation process in large open air ponds. Wastewater from the ponds can seep into groundwater and pollute lakes and rivers. In addition, the requirement for large amounts of water can deplete the supply of local fresh water resources. The Penn State separation method uses very little energy and water, and all solvents are recycled and reused...MORE